Documentary Review: The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015)

Release Date: April 30th, 2015 (limited)
Directed by: Jon Schnepp
Written by: Jon Schnepp
Music by: Frederick William Scott
Cast: Nicolas Cage (archive footage), Tim Burton, Kevin Smith

Super Skull Ship, 104 Minutes

Review:

Superman Lives was a film that never happened but I have always been intrigued by what it could have been.

Years ago, there was a picture of a long haired Nicolas Cage in a Superman costume with his eyes half shut; it looked really bizarre. Most fans of superhero films have probably seen this famous picture at some point or another. But that really set the stage for what this bizarre interpretation of Superman was.

Hearing that Tim Burton was working on the movie and that Kevin Smith had written a script for it, made this project even more bizarre. Burton had a falling out with the studio after issues arose during the production of what would have been his third Batman movie and Smith was a comic book fanboy that was mostly known for his stoner comedies that featured Jay and Silent Bob.

No one seemed to know much else about this strange project though. So once I heard about this documentary, I had a very strong desire to check it out, especially since we got to hear the details from the mouths of Burton and Smith.

On one hand, this was a truly strange motion picture but on the other hand, it wasn’t as insane as one might think if they saw that photo of Nic Cage.

This documentary was pretty solid and it covered a lot of ground from a lot of different angles. Everyone has their own version of the events and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle but this was an interesting story, nonetheless.

I’m actually glad that the film didn’t get made and that we got Superman Returns instead of this, even if it’s far from a perfect film. Superman Lives wasn’t really in tune with what Superman is. It could have been an insane and awesome motion picture in its own way and maybe the creators should revisit this concept as a movie for a new character that isn’t one that already comes with 80 years of his own lore built in.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about superhero filmmaking or films that never materialized: Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four or Jodorowsky’s Dune for instance.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Comedian

Published: June 20th, 2012 – April 24th, 2013
Written by: Brian Azzarello, Len Wein, John Higgins
Art by: John Higgins, JG Jones, Alex Sinclair
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

When this was first announced, I wasn’t too keen on anyone other than Alan Moore working on anything Watchmen related. My stance on that changed before I read this but I still never thought that anything else featuring these characters would live up to the greatness of Moore’s masterpiece.

Before Watchmen: Comedian isn’t a masterpiece but it is still damn good and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It gives me hope that the other Before Watchmen installments will also be superb.

This was a comic book that I never wanted but I’m glad that I got it. I love the Comedian character and in fact, he’s my favorite from the Watchmen universe. Also, due to my love of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, it’s hard for me not to see him as this character, even in comic book form. And to be honest, I would be so game for an adaptation of this story with Morgan returning to the Comedian role.

I think that this was as good as it was because Brian Azzarello respected what came before. He made something very damn close to the tone and style of Alan Moore’s work. Len Wein also contributed to some of the writing, as well, and both of these men seem to have a real admiration for the source material.

I also thought that the art was really good. It captures the vibe of the old school Dave Gibbons atmosphere with a bit of a modernized twist to it.

This book, as well as the others in this series, serve to give thorough backstories to the key characters of Watchmen lore. Purists of the original material don’t have to read this or even consider it canon but I do, at this point. DC has been doing a lot with these characters lately and I’m kind of digging it, as long as their use works well with the original work they appeared in.

Comic books and comic characters evolve. It’s always been this way. Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger back in 1939 but dozens upon dozens of people have taken their turn writing the character. Some of them don’t hit the mark but many of them do. Comic books are a medium where this is the norm, especially with characters owned by DC or Marvel. So I’m not against prequels, sequels and other stories featuring Watchmen characters. I just hope that they can maintain a certain quality.

Before Watchmen: Comedian is quality. And if anything, it’s made me pretty excited to delve into the other Before Watchmen installments.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Man Without Fear

Published: January 2nd, 2019 – January 30th, 2019
Written by: Jed MacKay
Art by: various, Kyle Hotz (covers)

Marvel Comics, 123 Pages

Review:

I was a bit depressed when Charles Soule’s run on Daredevil came to an end but there was a silver lining as Chip Zdarsky would be taking over. Zdarsky has been on his A-game lately and I think that he’ll be a good fit on the title.

However, between the two runs, there was this miniseries, which is a bridge between them.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this five issue series but even though it started out a bit slow, each issue built off of the one before it and I was pleasantly surprised by the end result.

This starts with Matt Murdock a.k.a. Daredevil in a coma. Each issue sees a character or a group of characters from his past come into his hospital room to visit but to also add some good emotional context to what Matt is going through. By the end of it, he is ready to put the mask back on and get to work.

The story was a slow build but man, it worked really well and it did it’s primary job very effectively. That job was to bridge the gap and generate real interest in the next chapter of Daredevil‘s long legacy.

Several artists worked on the book but the art was all done pretty consistently. The covers by Kyle Hotz really made these books look superb and I picked them all up because sometimes I buy comics just for the art on the cover. But I’m glad that this wasn’t just a collection of nice covers and that the contents within entertained me.

There isn’t a whole lot of action here due to Daredevil’s physical status but the story does have real energy and we do get to see Matt subconsciously fight his demons in a physical sense.

Man Without Fear is definitely a Daredevil story worth reading for fans of the character and for those looking forward to what’s on the horizon.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the Charles Soule Daredevil run before this and the new Chip Zdarsky run after.

Comic Review: Deathstroke: Arkham

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – February 6th, 2019
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: various

DC Comics, 134 Pages

Review:

Christopher Priest’s run on Deathstroke has been legendary but I also feel that it doesn’t get enough credit and seems to barely get any fanfare. Priest just understands Slade Wilson, his dynamic with other characters in the DC Universe and really gives the character more depth and complexity.

Following the Deathstroke Vs. Batman storyline, this arc sees Deathstroke sent to Arkham Asylum. While there, a lot of strange things start happening. I don’t want to give away too much but this does feature a ton of classic Batman villains with a lot of time given to Two-Face and Dr. Hugo Strange.

This was a fun story arc that continues to build off of the work that Priest has given us on this title. While there are different artists working on the five issues that make up this plot, everything felt consistent and matches the tone of the series thus far.

There isn’t much else I can say that I haven’t already said in reviews of other installments of Priest’s Deathstroke run. This continues to be good; Priest hasn’t lost a step or slipped into a state of redundancy, which is common when a writer works on a comic book for more than a few years.

Deathstroke: Arkham continues the title character’s journey in such a rich and interesting way that fans of him should truly enjoy this series. It’s been my favorite lengthy run on the character since his original title Deathstroke, The Terminator. In fact, I want to go back and revisit that series to see how it compares to this one.

Sure, I have my own personal bias towards Deathstroke but this is one of the best comic books being written today. More people should be picking this up monthly.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other story arcs in the current Deathstroke title, as well as The Silencer and Suicide Squad.

Comic Review: Vigilante by Marv Wolfman, Vol. 1

Published: 1983-1984 (original single issues run)
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: Keith Polland, George Perez, various

DC Comics, 318 Pages

Review:

I remember seeing copies of the Vigilante on shelves and in long boxes back in the day when I used to spend every dollar of my allowance on comics. I never knew much about the character other than he always had comics with striking covers. At the time, I think I just assumed he was one of a million Punisher or Deathstroke ripoffs and never really gave him a shot. But now that I am an adult with some disposable income, I wanted to see what was beyond the great covers that always adorned this comic book series.

Seeing that Marv Wolfman created the character and wrote this series was a big selling point, as this came out when Wolfman was writing some of his best work. I’m primarily talking about his run on The New Teen Titans, which is also where Vigilante debuted – in the second annual, to be exact.

This collection starts with that first appearance and then collects the first 11 issues of the Vigilante comic.

I guess the thing that’s most cool about Vigilante is that while the hero is a gun carrying vigilante out for justice in an effort to correct a flawed system, his backstory certainly isn’t cookie cutter. While he loses his family in a similar way to Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher, it’s almost as if he is a cross between Castle and Harvey Dent. Although, he luckily avoids getting half of his face melted off with acid.

The Vigilante is Adrian Chase, an attorney that has tried to stop the mob for years but constantly sees a corrupt legal system fail, again and again. The murder of his family is the final straw. But his origin, once you get to that issue, is really weird and even has some mystical elements to it.

The Vigilante is probably the best good guy out of all the other characters that embody the “vigilante” trope. While he breaks the law, trying to uphold the law, he is often times at odds with himself and second guessing his tactics. After the first 11 issues of his series, he’s still not settled on what way is the right way or if he’s even doing what’s best for society.

There are a lot of layers and Marv Wolfman gave us a really dynamic series here. Frankly, this is vastly underappreciated and sadly, mostly forgotten.

Adrian Chase got new life in modern times as a character on the TV show Arrow but that incarnation was called Prometheus and he was a straight up villain out to make Green Arrow suffer.

If you like these type of characters, this will most assuredly be a refreshing read for you. It is not a retread of dozens of similar characters. It’s a unique take on the genre and it’s much more intelligent than most of the titles you can compare it to.

Plus, the art is strikingly beautiful and the Vigilante has a really cool costume that’s one part retro and two parts badass.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Marv Wolfman’s run on The New Teen Titans, as well as ’80s stories featuring Deathstroke.

Comic Review: Spider-Men II

Published: March 21st, 2018
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Sara Pichelli

Marvel Comics, 104 Pages

Review:

I had really enjoyed Brian Michael Bendis’ run with the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man since he debuted. I also liked the first Spider-Men event, which brought Miles and Peter Parker together for the first time. So I had pretty high hopes for this sequel series and Bendis’ swansong before leaving Marvel for DC Comics.

Sadly, this was a letdown.

Now it wasn’t terrible but it was just okay. But this should have maintained the momentum and the energy that the previous Miles Morales stories had.

Ultimately, Spider-Men II took the wind out of the sails and brought this once fun to read character back down to Earth in the most Brian Michael Bendis way possible. And I don’t say that to be trendy and trash Bendis’ work like so many others but this is a prime example of what his harsher critics can point to and say, “See, Bendis gonna Bendis!”

This tried to be clever and give fans a swerve with an alternate, darker version of Miles Morales but it fell flat. In the end, the story was a total dud, lacking in a healthy amount of action and any sort of depth or solid character development. It read more like a love letter between “evil” Miles and the Kingpin than something worthy of bringing the two most popular Spider-Men together again.

Miles Morales debuted with a hell of a bang. But for Bendis’ last story for the great character he created, Miles went out with a whimper.

But hey, Sara Pichelli’s art was absolutely top notch, beautiful and up to her great standard. So, at least I got to enjoy the overall look of this book.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Miles Morales stories by Brian Michael Bendis but they’re all better than this one.

Comic Review: Justice League Odyssey: Ghost Sector

Published: September 26th, 2018 – January 30th, 2019
Written by: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Stjepan Sejic, Phil Briones, Jeromy Cox, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Ivan Plascencia

DC Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

I was a bit saddened when Green Lanterns ended its run a few months back, as I was really digging Jessica Cruz’s story arc over the duration of 50-plus issues. But luckily for me, she joined this team, which is actually a really cool mash up of characters that currently don’t have much else going on.

This teams up Cruz with Cyborg, Starfire and Azrael. It also brings in Darkseid, who has a hand in the events that transpire. Is he a protagonist or an antagonist? You do find out by the end of this five issue story but it all plays out really well and this has been one of the more engaging comic books currently being published.

This story doesn’t have a definitive conclusion but it helps to build up this series and it looks to be promising something bigger on the horizon. It does have a nice cliffhanger reveal which opens the door for a more serious threat than what was first apparent.

I like this mix of characters, they have a good dynamic and I will continue to keep reading this, assuming it doesn’t go off the rails at some point.

The art is solid, even if it does have different people working on it issue to issue. It needs to find a consistent art team but at least the styles have meshed well thus far.

I love cosmic stories, which is why I have been a big Green Lantern fan since the beginning of the Geoff Johns era. This continues that tradition well, even if Cruz is the only Lantern here. But seeing her removed from the Corps and working with a new group of allies is also pretty intriguing and it is something that her character needed if she is going to evolve into something more than just another human Lantern.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other recent DC Comics cosmic stuff like the recently ended Green Lanterns series.